It can be difficult to know what foods are truly good for your health and vision. There is a lot of advice out there, and not all of it is well-founded. For example, carrots are commonly thought to help improve vision. However, research has shown that carrots, while good for your overall health, do not play as significant a role in vision as once thought. At the same time, people often overlook other foods that contain nutrients essential to maintaining healthy vision.

The American Optometric Association recommends adding the following nutrients to your daily diet either through foods or through supplements:

Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Leafy green vegetables, pumpkins, summer squash, and eggs all contain lutein and zeaxanthin. Numerous studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is thought to lower the risk of developing cataracts. Additionally, when consumed in combination with other essential nutrients, it can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss. Vitamin C is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can protect cells in the eyes from unstable molecules called free radicals, which break down healthy tissue. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, fortified cereals, sweet potatoes, and avocados.

Essential Fatty Acids

Fats boost the immune system, fuel cells, and maintain the integrity of the nervous system. Scientific research shows that omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper visual development and retinal function. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve your tear film, which is vital to your vision. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fish, such as salmon, tuna, and cod. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources, such as walnuts and flaxseed.

Zinc

Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye, particularly in the retina and in the vascular tissue layer lying under the retina called the choroid. As an essential trace mineral, zinc plays a key role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina to produce melanin. Some foods containing zinc include lean meat, seafood, eggs, leafy green vegetables, peanuts, and cheese.

Each of the above nutrients is important to eye health, but like anything, they are best consumed in moderation. Your best bet is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and to consult a doctor before making any drastic dietary changes.

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Recipe Suggestions

Suggested by the American Optometric Association

 

Whole Wheat Penne with Spinach and Gorgonzola

Especially rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, folate, and zinc, with modest amounts of vitamin C. Most of the omega-3s are from plant sources, which are not quite as good as the EPA and DHA in fish.

Also, rich in iron, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and copper

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced (~ 1 medium onion)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped (~2 cups)
  • 1 (6-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (optional)

Directions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions, without salting water.
  • While pasta is cooking, spray a large, non-stick frying pan with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat. Add onions, then stir and cook until slightly transparent, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook for another minute. Add broth and let simmer for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, toss, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add spinach and basil, cook and stir for approximately 2 minutes, or until leaves wilt. Remove from heat and salt/pepper to taste.
  • Drain pasta and add to spinach mixture. Thoroughly toss. Serve on a platter and top with gorgonzola and pine nuts.

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Creamy Herb Hummus with Sliced Red Bell Peppers

 Especially rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and zinc

Also, rich in plant-based omega-3s, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and selenium

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or, 3 to 4 teaspoons dried basil)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil (or, 1 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 2 whole wheat pita breads, cut into wedges
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced into 1″ slices
  • 1 cup broccoli flowerets

Directions

  • In a food processor or blender, blend first 8 ingredients, adding enough water to make a smooth dip. (Makes approximately 1 1 /2 cups.)
  • Spoon into a serving bowl and top with green onions and basil. Serve with pita wedges and vegetables.

 

Seared Tuna with Orange, Avocado, and Cilantro Salsa

Especially rich in lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and omega-3s

Also, rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, and potassium

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 four-ounce tuna steaks (preferably sushi grade)
  • 1/3 cup red onion, minced
  • 2 oranges, peeled with all pith removed, and cubed
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

  • Blend olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice in a shallow pan. Add tuna, turn to coat evenly, cover and marinate for up to 1 hour.
  • In a medium bowl, blend onion, oranges, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and salt & pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
  • Place steaks in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook 2 minutes per side for medium rare (3 to 4 minutes per side for well done). Serve with salsa spooned over top.

 

 

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